by Brittany Silvers

How to boost your puppy’s immune system

How to boost your puppy’s immune system

Published: April 2021 | Updated: January 2023 

Key Takeaways:

  • Puppies are born with low immunity and are susceptible to diseases early in life.
  • There are two types of immunity: innate and adaptive.
  • A proper vaccination schedule can help develop your puppy’s adaptive immune system.
  • FullBucket’s Puppy Probiotic can help kick-start your puppy’s innate immunity by developing a good microbial population in the gut and can help develop adaptive immunity to parvovirus before they can be vaccinated.

 Hooray! It is finally time to bring your new puppy home. There are so many things to think about as a new dog owner, but one of them stands out above the rest: your puppy’s health. 

There are many different factors that play into health, including diet, exercise, socialization, grooming, and the factor that may be the most important of all: Proper immune system development.  

Setting the Stage for the Adult Dog Immune System

The immune system is a complex system of organs, tissues, cells, and molecules that help fight infections and other damage to the body to ensure that the body remains healthy. Puppies are born with little to no immune system, because mothers are not able to pass immunity to puppies in-utero. 

When puppies consume colostrum, the first milk produced by the mother, they are able to passively absorb immunoglobulins from the milk into the body, which does provide some initial immunity. 

However, the immunity received from colostrum will wane away in the first few weeks of life, meaning it is likely not active or lowly active by the time you bring them home. Because of this low immunity, it is important to be cautious about where you take your new puppy and to start doing everything you can to boost their immune system right away.

In order to help promote immune system development in your puppy, it is important to first understand the different types of immunity.

Innate Immunity

All animals are born with innate immunity. Innate immunity is also known as non-specific immunity, because it reacts to all invaders the same way. The innate immune response is comprised of two major components: 

  • 1) Physical immune barriers. Physical barriers to infection and disease include the skin, membranes that line the respiratory, digestive tracts and other tracts, as well as the cornea of the eye. 

  • While this may seem obvious, the importance of these physical barriers cannot be understated. If these physical barriers remain intact and healthy, they are able to prevent many types of bacteria, viruses, and toxins from entering the body. 

    A part of the physical immune barrier that may often be overlooked is the good bacteria that inhabit the body, most notably on the skin surface and in the gastrointestinal tract. These “good bugs” are beneficial to normal body functions, such as digestion, and they also prevent the development of harmful bacteria when they are present in proper numbers. 

    2) Innate immune response. If an invader does pass the physical barriers, the first thing to be triggered will be the innate immune response. Inflammation is the primary process in the innate immune response. 

    This acute inflammation allows immune cells to travel to the source of damage, kill or remove the pathogen and any damaged tissue, which then allows healing to begin. 

    The innate immune response also helps trigger the adaptive immune system.

    Adaptive Immunity

    Animals are not born with adaptive immunity, but they will develop it throughout their life. Adaptive immunity is also known as specific immunity, because the body will learn the best way to fight against each specific invader. 

    In short, each invader has specific antigens, which are usually proteins present on the surface of the pathogen. The host body recognizes that this antigen is not part of the host body and may be considered a threat. The body mobilizes lymphocytes, antibodies, antigen presenting cells and cytokines for the specific antigen. Once the body has encountered the antigen once, it can mobilize the immune response faster and more effectively the next time.  

    How to Increase Immunity in Puppies

    It is difficult to alter the innate immune response; however, there are some steps you can take to ensure your dog is well protected. 

    First, you must ensure the integrity of their physical barriers. If you ever notice that your dog has any type of wound that may allow pathogens to enter the body, clean it as thoroughly as possible, keep it clean and dry, and consider visiting your veterinarian to see if your dog may need some type of topical treatment to aid in healing. 

    A large impact you can make on your puppy’s innate immune system is through ensuring the health of their gastrointestinal tract and the good bacteria that reside there. Research has shown that probiotics can aid in gut health and immunity as well. 

    FullBucket’s Puppy Probiotic is the first and only probiotic product specifically developed by veterinarians for young puppies. This probiotic will establish a healthy gut microbiome to promote proper immune response and overall health in your puppy. 

    The primary method of enhancing the adaptive immune system is through vaccination. Vaccines stimulate the development of the specific immune response without the dog having to contract and undergo the disease first. 

    Per the American Kennel Club, a typical puppy immunization schedule may include: 

    • 6-8 weeks old: Distemper, Parvovirus, Bordetella
    • 10-12 weeks old: Distemper, Adenovirus (Hepatitis), Parainfluenza and Parvovirus [This grouping is commonly referred to as DHPP], as well as influenza, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
    • 16-18 weeks old: DHPP, Rabies, Influenza, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Bordetella
    • 12-16 months old: DHPP, Rabies, Coronavirus*, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
    • Every 1-2 years: DHPP, Influenza, Coronavirus*, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
    • Every 1-3 years: Rabies (as required by law, likely varies by state)

    *It is important to note that this is not the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus.

    In the above schedule for puppy immunizations, the vaccines listed in bold are recommended while those that are not in bold are optional based on region and lifestyle. 

    While this is a general recommendation, it is important to work directly with your veterinarian to determine what the best vaccination schedule is for your individual puppy. 

    While you work on getting your puppy fully vaccinated, be sure to avoid situations where they may be susceptible to pathogens, such as dog parks, kennels, doggy daycare, and training classes. 

    In the meantime, FullBucket’s Puppy Probiotic can help your puppy develop specific immunity against Parvovirus, because it is specially formulated to contain parvovirus antibodies. 

    So, now that you understand the puppy immune system and a little more about how it works, you can use this knowledge, tools like FullBucket’s Puppy Probiotic and a well-managed vaccination schedule to help ensure your puppy has a strong immune system that will protect them throughout their life.

    Read More:

    Development of Dog Immune System

    Innate Immune System

    Immune System Responses in Dogs

    Probiotics Improved Canine Immunity

    Guide to First-Year Puppy Vaccinations

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